My Christmas Story

Back when I was pregnant with Charlie, I served on the Visual Arts Committee for my church. Our church had a very involved fine arts ministry and services were sprinkled with arts of all kinds–film, music, theater, and even interpretive dance from time to time. It was a pretty wonderful place.

You can imagine that at a church like that, the Visual Arts Committee didn’t take itself lightly–we might discuss and argue over a concept for several hours.

So there we were one weeknight in November, discussing what was supposed to be a quick installation going up through the Christmas season. The director of the committee, a church employee, wanted us to incorporate the lyrics to a song we would be singing. The song was Made to Worship by Chris Tomlin and somehow we were drawn these particular lines:

When you and I embrace surrender,

When you and I choose to believe,

You and I will see,

Who we were meant to be.

We tossed around a ton of ideas and finally someone suggested an image of Mother and Child. I had just found out I was pregnant–hadn’t been to a doctor or anything yet–and so the idea of a mother and child brought up some very concrete ideas for me. Specifically, I was struck by how out of control I felt. A born planner, I suddenly had a life growing inside of me and I was well-aware that it was just doing its thing without any input from me. Amazing, but also frightening.

I had this idea that we should do the mother and child scene with a twist. Instead of looking down, Mary should be looking up. In my mind, that was the ultimate surrender–just looking up at God and trying to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to be doing. I was sure feeling it in those early days of pregnancy–Caffeine or no? cold medicine? What about nail polish? The weight of my decisions was almost paralyzing. I couldn’t even imagine how Mary felt when selected to be the Mother of the Savior. I could barely decide if I wanted to take baths any more.

The committee thought I was a little odd. Tradition prevailed and we had a very classic mother and child image that year. Litte boy in pajamas

Many, many months after Charlie was born, as I was struggling to figure out the why of my new life, I found myself turning the words to the Chris Tomlin song over in my mind. Embrace surrender. Don’t just surrender, but embrace it–accept that we never really have control. It’s hard as hell, but I think it’s the only way to do this thing. No amount of wishing on stars is going to change Charlie’s brain. Hoping things were different is a waste of time and energy. This is all I’ve got, so I better get on board.

And so, embracing surrender became my new motto. It’s not always an easy one–I fail at it all the time–but I try my best.

Charlie was probably over a year when I remembered my argument for the upward looking Mary and realized how relevant those ideas were to my current situation. Mary didn’t plan to give birth to the Savior–as far as I can tell, she didn’t even volunteer. She was drafted. Just like me. I was minding my own business when I got selected by fate to be the parent of a special needs child. There’s no handbook for this and figuring out what to do is often a pile of guesswork.

I’ve had to embrace the situation that I’ve been handed. I’ve researched medical equipment and alternative therapy until they were making appearances in my dreams. I’ve ridden air planes to foreign countries when I hate to fly and I hate to travel. I can quickly and easily run through lists of medical conditions I never knew existed. I didn’t choose this life–this life chose me.

At Christmas time I’m reminded of Mary. Of the sacrifices she must of made when she was chosen to be Jesus’s mother. She was probably hoping for an average, normal life, but that’s not what she got. Life is unpredictable. We can fight that or we can accept what we get. That might not be the meaning of Christmas, but I am sure am aware of it this time of year.

For those who celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas.

Boy in a wheelchair wearing pajamas

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  1. I think this is my favorite post of yours to date.

    Have a very, merry Christmas!

  2. Fantastic post, Katy!

    I never thought of it that way before, and I’ve never heard that song. (I’ll be heading over to iTunes after this post!)

    Thanks for the uplifting perspective. I needed it tonight! :)

  3. Lovely post, as always.

  4. I love this Katy. Surrendering control is the one thing we humans have such a hard time doing. I know that at first with Alan, I wanted to control everything. It soon became apparent that I was never going to be in control. So like a wave, I learned to ride it, from its highest points, to its lowest, and know that no matter where we are in that wave, there is always a sense of calm. It may not appear that way at the time, but with every new day, there is a new way to learn and grown and accept that we are all here for a reason, and it sure can be a learning curve, but if you are open to it, the things we all take away from this life. And the impacts made, can change lives far beyond our own..

    Merry Christmas my friend!

    • You know, Becca, the wave analogy occurred to me to–we can fight it and drown or we can figure out how to ride it. I like the way you interpret the ups and downs of the waves as well.

  5. MelissaInk Designs says:

    This is a beautiful story, Katy! I especially love the idea of Mary getting drafted :) Guess that is true in so many cases.

  6. Ruth Evans says:

    Thank you. Merry Christmas.

  7. Excellent teaching, Katy. Beautiful prose and message.

    ‘Surrendering’ to a ‘draft’ is a bit edgy, but I really like the image of Mary looking up – will start meditating on that idea.

    I remember feeling the same as you did when I was pregnant with our first. He’s 20 now (years not months) and sometimes the same feelings emerge. ‘Surrender’ continues.

    • Well, if you were drafted for the military, you could do your duty or you could run to Canada. I choose to do my duty.

  8. Beautiful thoughts, and just what I needed to read right now. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Alexandra Cunningham says:

    What a great and beautiful piece this was. Merry Christmas!

  10. Love this post Katy! We are only fooling ourselves if we think we are in control.

  11. love the post. love the post-er. and most of all, love the model. sitting up like such a big boy. merry, merry christmas to you all.

  12. Blessings to you this Christmas, Katy and family! What a lovely post. Thanks for this excellent reminder to surrender to Christ everything that is really His anyway…not easy to do!

    I love the mental image from your post of Mary looking heavenward. I get caught bending over my child too often when I should adopt that pose of arms cradling, face toward heaven. In keeping our hearts and faces upward, we can surrender up our worries and the not-knowing and instead be filled with His strength. A great image…and I always appreciate images because they stick so well when we hit a storm. Thanks for that special gift today!

    A Merry Christmas to you!

  13. Katy my friend, this is just what I needed. Thanks for this great post.

  14. Tiffany Morris says:

    GREAT post, Katy! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Hugs – Tiffany

  15. You’ve read my mind again. The control freak in me is panicking, I just need to let it go and deal with what comes. Thank you for reminding me of that.
    Merry Christmas

  16. That was beautiful Katy! Merry Christmas to you! Let go and let God!

  17. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Katy! Have a great holiday weekend.

  18. Merry Christmas to you and your family! What a beautiful post! You have no idea how much I needed this reminder today. I am 3 years into this journey and very much feel like I just started. All the feelings are being dragged to the surface lately and I feel like I am drowning some days! I really needed to be reminded that embracing surrender really is the only option.

  19. Merry Christmas, Katy. Thanks for all the lessons in here. I’ve been told by a few people lately that I’m “inspirational” and I keep thinking, “who me?” mostly because I don’t fee like I’ve done anything all that amazing. I’m just playing the hand I’ve been dealt, and trying to do a good job of it. I need to remember to keep looking up, though, because that’s really where the inspiration is coming from and I want other people to know that.

  20. I love this post, I just wrote a blog mentioning it (I posted a link of course!) – it really highlights a lot of similar things that I’ve been thinking about during my short time of parenting a “special needs child”.

    Anyway, if you want to have a read of my post, it’s here:

  21. This is a beautiful, thought-provoking post. Thank you, and merry Christmas.

  22. When people ask me “How do you do it”, I tell them that the Big Man Up There never sends us anything we can’t handle. If he has faith in me, then I can look inside me and find the strength because it’s hiding in there somewhere.

    Thank you for posting this – it was a great way to start my Christmas Eve. I was thinking of how thankful I am that T is with us this year for Christmas. It is the only thing that matters today.

  23. This is a gorgeous post. Thanks for sharing it. This whole world I’ve been thrust into is so new to me. Like you, I am trying really hard to let go of my original control-freak ways and to surrender. I’m still grappling with a lot of right now and am going through a i’m-so-mad-at-you-God kind of phase. But ultimately, I know I’m going to have to someday arrive at a place where I can just surrender it and trust Him. I’m just not there yet. The song that gets me every time is “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman. This was the song that was sang at our wedding and it meant something so different then than how I understand it now. The lyrics “You give and take away, You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name”. Gets me every time, I always tear up… like I am now. Ha! Merry Christmas!


  25. Katy,

    This is beautiful and powerful. “Embracing Surrender.” Love that. And you were drafted—what a fantastic analogy. But you’re a tough soldier and an incredible mom. I seriously don’t know how you do it all.

    You’re a soldier, a mother to a special needs mother, and an amazing writer to boot. What a package.

    Merry Christmas!